Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Music doth soothe the savage beast.

Throughout my life I have been pulled back and forth between passions for music and science. Each has been a distraction to the other and yet each has reinforced my capabilities to improve my knowledge and functionality in the other.

For example, when I would become very frustrated from focusing on math, computer programming or trouble shooting hardware or software or financial problems I found that enough of the right kind of music and volume would restore my sensibilities about whatever it was that I was fumbling with and give me a second wind, if you will, to start making progress.  I played Trumpet for 6 years during jr. and Sr. high school and tried to head towards a professional music career at one point but my love of electronics and all things mechanical overtook that direction.

At present, I have just gotten the drawings and CAD files for the Smartvolvomasterassydwgjpg Car bed to be built on Clifford.   I have been waiting for years (no lie) to get to this point in our progress to full timing. volvomasterassyjpg Now that we are here I am so stopped up with information, details and pending things to do that I can’t seem to get anything started. Each thing I think of to work on has dependencies that I have to resolve before I can actually begin that specific work.

The CAD drawings are perfect but I have to reinstall my CAD program before I can use them. Unfortunately, my laptop is about 2 Windows platforms (Vista and Windows 7) beyond what it was engineered to run. It has a memory limit of 1.2 Gigabytes which, on Windows XP was a pretty good sized RAM resource. I did have a few other desktop systems that could have held more memory but had weak processing power. Moot point, anyway, since most of them have been cannibalized to solve problems in other family systems. 

So here I am with a powerful program needing to run on a powerful and current operating system (Windows 7) but its not possible to make the hardware resources available to it so that it will perform as well as I need. So this is not unlike sitting down at the computer in Late March to get started on preparing my taxes and discovering that I am getting blue screen errors occasionally.  Sure, it will run but if it crashes at the wrong time it could take out the Hard drive and not only lose my data but be unbootable.

To forge ahead without fixing this problem would just be stupid. I would not be able to stay focused on getting the taxes done because of this distraction and that would cause me to make errors in the process even if the system never crashed.  Its like trying not to flinch when you fire a 45 caliber hand gun the second time.

For the past weeks I have been preparing for this day but have had so much that is unfinished at the moment that I am just stuck trying to get going on any one thing.  Basically, I am mentally constipated and the backup is impacting my body, mind and spirit.

Here is where the music comes in.  I really need to give that part of my brain a little vacation and the only way to do that is to immerse myself in something that will engage and hold my focus in another, more rested part of it.  It seems that music does that for me when I have been ignoring it for awhile. However, I can’t just sit and listen to it. That will just make me antsy to get going on my problem. While listening I have to be physically engaged in something bland that takes no analytical effort but which holds my attention.

Writing this blog tonight is one such activity.  The type of music that I listen to is also very important to this process.  Highly complex music like a symphony, lively jazz and most music with vocals in it will keep agitating the part of my brain that needs the break so simple smoothly soft jazz such as some Bobby Hackett, Beegie Adair or Andre Previn is good brain vacation landscape.   Dave Brubeck, George Shearing or Peter Nero is not helpful no matter how much I like them.Also, there needs to be a minimum of strings and/or saxophone solos. Those are often as agitating as vocals. Using Sirius Satellite Radio or XM Radio gives me some of these genre choices but I have to take what it delivers. I probably listen to XM Escape (channel 28 right now) more than all other channels combined.

However, there is another great source of new music on the website. It is free and there are genres of music already catalogued or I can make my own.  I can setup a channel, like for Beegie Adair, and then it will pick music, some of it hers and some of other artists that fit her general style and makeup.  If it plays something I especially like I can give it a thumbs-up and it will strengthen the preference for that type of sound. If I give something a thumbs-down it will bias Pandora to shy away from other selections that are too similar to that one.

One other thing I have found for those times when I really am too spent to even do mindless stuff like this blog and just want to sit and listen is to play a slideshow of great landscape pictures on the monitor or TV.  I have found that SmugMug has a lot of high quality pictures of great places to soothe my nerves.  I can search for a particular place, like LassenDane > Brokeoff Mountain with Brokeoff Meadows campground | May 23, 2009Lassen National Park, Grand Teton National Park and  other such grand places I love to see and I don’t have to just watch the same tired photos I have already run dozens of times.

This combination of music and visual arts seems to do a great job of disengaging my “working” mind and giving it a break. Writing the blog or other such journaling activity also helps when feel like it.  It keeps my hands busy so I don’t pick at my cuticles or bite my nails (yeah, I have that habit, too, but at least I don’t smoke). 


Friday, September 11, 2009

Clean as a whistle

Finally!  A break in the weather and bugs!  DakotR was washed and waxed less than 6 months ago and now it looks like it has been abandoned in the jungle for 5 years.

Consequently, I have withdrawn my previous judgments about what have appeared to be “over the hill” RVs apparently squatting permanently in some campgrounds. They were probably new less than a year before I saw them.

I don’t really know about how it is in the rest of the U.S. but in the southeast, everything visibly ages about a month per calendar week. It does not take long for everything from RVs to Homes to turn into under attended/over ignored-looking barnyard baggage.

Anyway, I began by pressure washing the outside (as much as I could safely reach from the ground or low ladders). At least that took the main scum off but the fiberglass end caps roll off to the roof over a long arc and that makes everything above about 9.5 feet, just rinseable from the ground or from a 4’ scaffold.

Even a good brush can do very little damage to this mess regardless of the cleaner that is being used so there are no “quick and clean” methods to get this looking nice, again. It’s going to take a lot of elbow grease, for sure.

I turned, next, to the roof.  I am generally against pressure washing an EPDM roof because of the normal cast-off methodology it uses to protect itself from the elements….. but gracious, enough accumulated gunk is enough gunk, period!  DSC01178 I could not stand it anymore! Never mind the mess it makes down the sides and end caps every time it rains. 

It can be seen from ground level when you get back from either end of DakotR and no matter how clean and shiny I make the sides, it still looks like a Carrabbas’ restaurant with the hanging gardens on the roof.

So I did do a “gentle” pressure wash of the whole roof surface giving special attention to seams and seals where time has cracked the Dicor sealant. I will next go up there and check those out to see if any need “refurbishing” by trimming off the old Dicor and recasting sealant on them.

Just as I feared, a lot of loose cast off from the EPDM rubber washed off into the gutters and continuously kept clogging them with the wet whitish powder. That required stopping my washing and flushing the gutters before I could continue.  Eventually, I did get it all done, yesterday.

Now, I need to hand wax/polish the end caps and finish up cleaning the higher-up sides of the RV and put a coat of wax on those as well.

Fortunately, while on the roof I was able to pressure wash about the top 3 feet of the Big slideout awning but reaching out farther than that would likely have turned it into a trampoline for me so I resisted the urge and stopped there.DSC01187 I may tackle the rest of the awning from the ground by closing the slideout and dropping the awning straight down to the ground so I can hit the rest of it squarely from a good stepladder. you can see the “scum line” just this side of the maroon strip.

Also left to do is go over all of the end cap seals and the screw strip covers really well with extra strength Magic Erasers and some Wal-Mart RV wash.DSC01220

Starting from scratch in the first picture, DSC01177DSC01174

I pressure wash (2nd picture). And then finish with the Magic Eraser with the full strength RV wash on it.DSC01173 This has been the most effective combination  for cleaning off these end cap gaskets that I have tried….. and I have tried a lot of stuff and techniques.



We are due in Disney in November and I don’t want to show up there in a 10 year old 5th wheel that looks like it’s that old and was kept behind the barn.

As Mel Brooks said, “work, work, work, work, work”… but this is not like the fun he was talking about in Blazing saddles so I have to meter myself to keep from giving up before its done.

It’s too bad that no one has come up with a pill to do for work what Viagra has done for play… or at least a pill that won’t kill you, too.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Update on Katie the “Poo”

I have had some queries about how Katie is doing with her problems.  The good news is that we seem to be getting better with how we are handling them and some have truly gotten better.DSC00888

This morning, she went in for her final check for her Urinary tract infection that seemed to be ignoring previous treatments.  So far, its looking good but it will take a few days before the culture confirms this.

Her extrahepatic (outside the liver) liver shunt was corrected in January 09 and they said it typically took 6 to 8 months before we could know for sure if it was a permanent fix. Apparently, new shunts can form if there is too much back pressure on the liver from closing a shunt too quickly.  The last tests that were done a month ago indicated that no new shunts had formed but there might still be some leakage through her original shunt.  The procedure they used causes a slow growth of scar tissue that gradually pinches off the flow in the shunt.

Unfortunately, neither the doctors here nor in another location where these have been done regularly, had ever treated such a large shunt and so they did not have any clear idea of how long it would take to completely close it or if it would completely close.

On the seizure front, they have settled in at about one per week but we are getting better at spotting the precursory signs that one might be brewing. We have found that giving her a Keppra when her eyes are getting bloodshot and she is getting a bit “hyper” seems to reset this clock.  It was 16 days since her last one and for the first time she never did go into the full extension rigor that has been a constant trait of these seizures.  That is very good.  They are very hard on her.

Her meds are 1.5ml of Potassium Bromide/day and that is all. Her tests have come back with her measuring within the therapeutic  limits so that is holding and there seems to be no impact to her personality anymore.

She is the same lovable, adorable little minx that we rescued and fell in love with and she returns that many times over in the quality of life she adds to ours.

It looks like for the long term that she will be on the potassium bromide for the rest of her life but that is tolerable.  The occasional use of the keppra may still be required, too.   More and more, it is looking like these seizures are being driven by environmental things. We are suspecting chemicals used on yards to fertilize or control weeds so maybe, once we get on the road and away from residential neighborhood living, they may become more infrequent.


Friday, September 4, 2009

The pony cart tease

When I was very young, somewhere around 5 to 8 years old, we lived in “the country”. Actually, it was a small town in Georgia that , by itself, was “in the country” and we lived about a mile outside of “town”. Our next door neighbor had a couple of kids named Jim and Scott. Both were older than I was and they had an absolutely beautiful pony cart.. and of course, a pony.

Their cart had wicker basket sides, big spoked wheels and a Palomino pony ( I remember because that is what Roy Rogers had). To a 5-8 year old, that was an irresistible rig, hands down.

Now, as I said, we lived in the country so the properties were on the order of 5-10 acres or more.  Our frontage was about 300 feet with them living on our east side next to our driveway. On our west side was the long winding driveway up to my uncle’s house high up on a hill.  The start of his driveway marked the western edge of our property. This is important because I was allowed to play in the yard just about anywhere as long as I did not venture beyond these “boundaries” of the front yard. The yard in front of our house was nearly the size of a football field and mostly flat. Centered on the frontage and out near the road was the world’s oldest and biggest oak tree which just begged to be climbed…just as soon as I grew tall enough to reach those lower branches.

Every so often I would see Scott and Jim hitch up their pony cart for a ride down the road.  They always turned right as they came out of their driveway because they were not allowed to go back towards town, which was the other way.

They would trot down the road in front of our house and I would drool with envy as they slowly traveled that 300 feet to my uncle’s driveway and then disappear around the curve in front of his property.  

I would wait and watch until they eventually came back into view heading back home.  Sometimes, they would go home, turn around and then go back down the road past my uncle’s house and on out of view, again.  Of course, I could do nothing else but watch until they returned home. All the time imagining the great fun and adventures that they surely must be having each time they disappeared around that curve.

I finally figured out about when they would come by and managed to be out at the end of our driveway which was right next to theirs as they would come out of their driveway. As I stood there they would  sometimes wave (in an alpha-kid’s way of silently saying “na-na-na-na-naaaaaa-na” (or “ne-ner---ne-ner” for short) and trot on by.

I would start off at a trot, too, down the grassy edge of the road as they slowed the pony to a walk. I could almost keep up on my short fat legs and not step off of our property as I followed them all the way to my uncle’s driveway. But I could only stand and watch as they continued on down the road, around the curve and on out of sight.

I know this may seem to be boring but you must realize how much I wanted to ride in that pony cart. As soon, they came back, I was waiting there to repeat this tag-a-long trek back the 300 feet to the other edge of our property.

One day, as they turned out onto the road and passed in front of me, I was preparing to follow them back to my uncle’s driveway again, but they stopped the pony and Jim, the older one asked if I would like to ride in the cart!!!!!

“Yes” I said before my mind caught up with my mouth, “But I have to ask my Daddy, first”.  Ok, Jim said and I ran back across the uncut front yard to the house so fast that the tall sparse weeds  stung my legs like a willow switch… but I didn’t care, I was going to get a ride in that coveted pony cart!

When I breathlessly asked for permission to ride, Daddy said that I could ride but not past my uncle’s driveway.

I raced back out the 100 feet to the road from the front porch of the house oblivious that my folks were sitting there in Wicker rockers  watching all of this play out.

In the time it took me to race to the house for permission and then back out to the road Scott and Jim and the mesmerizing pony cart had been slowly walking down the road towards that dreaded edge of my earth, my uncle’s driveway. Even though I was running at Superman speed they were a little over half way there by the time I caught up with them.

I shouted as best as I could with no wind left in my lungs from all the running “Daddy says I can ride!”.

“Ok” said Scott and Jim stopped the cart, “Climb in”.

I ran up behind the cart and reached for the hand rail at its side, but Jim slapped the reins on the pony’s back and it bolted a few feet forward, just out of my reach.

Scott said “Sorry. The pony just spooked. C’mon, Bud, get in” and they both laughed.

I caught up and again, Jim spooked the pony and it snatched the cart just out of my grasp and moved away from me for another 10 feet or so before it stopped with another feigned apology.

Over and over Jim taunted me blaming the horse, the wind and finally me for spooking the pony. Scott finally said that I was just too slow. Each time I missed they laughed and giggled and whispered while I struggled to catch up again.

No matter how many times they cheated me I was not going to give up my dream ride in the pony cart so I kept on trying.

I knew we were getting perilously close to my uncle’s driveway and I ran harder and faster than I ever had before in my life but I was never quite fast enough.  Eventually, my pursuit ended empty at my uncle’s driveway and they continued on down the road.

Apparently, this was great fun for them because they did not disappear out of site but rather turned the pony and cart around only 30 or 40 feet past my stopping point and started back towards their house and me.

They passed me and again, stopped on the road just out of my reach and begged me to get on.  Again I tried to get a grip on the handle and again, it was snatched out of my reach with giggles and laughter.

I was tired, humiliated, bleeding (I had fallen once and had a skinned knee and elbow) and after several more such repetitions I knew they were just being mean to me but I could not stop trying. Tears of frustration, anger, and embarrassment streaked down my face but I would not stop trying and between gasps for air, I was sobbing openly.  I was going to have my pony ride!  It was promised to me and it was “authorized” and one of these times, I was going to get a grip on that handle before they could get it away from me.

We had just about reached the mid point of their trip back to their house when I heard my Father call out to me to come back to the house and stop trying to catch that ride.  I cried harder and I tried harder but still could not get it and would not quit despite the order.

The attempts had taken us to less than 100 feet from their driveway which meant the end of any ride I might have gotten.  Suddenly, from our porch my father’s voice boomed out “Let him get in the cart”.  Scott started to respond with some excuse and Daddy cut him off with “LET HIM RIDE!”.  And then they did let me get in and ride the 20 or 30 feet to the end of our driveway where I had to get out.

I asked when they were going to come back by again and they said “Not today”.  “We have to go, now”.

I longingly watched them disappear down their driveway. Slowly I turned, now crying from the disappointingly short ride and slowly trudged the long walk down our driveway and back to my house.

Daddy was already halfway up the driveway to meet me and when we met he asked me if I was ok.  I said “yes, but I didn’t really get a good ride”. 

He just picked me up, hugged me and said something about my trying so hard and not ever giving up. Years later I realized that he was trying to tell me that sometimes a dogged pursuit of something I wanted could turn into an unreasonable obsession so I should watch out for that and let go before it hurts me.

Years later, when I was in my 20s, he referred to this event and told me that he knew then that I was going to have a very hard life because I could not make a decision to stop doing something that I really wanted to do even though it might not be rational to continue to pursue it.

Through my life I have revisited this scenario and the revelation by my father that I would likely always be prone to struggle obsessively  to solve impossible problems.  I think that his telling me this eventually gave me a point of closure for that episode with the boys next door, but I never liked them, again. 

I finally knew that it was my blind desire to do that singular thing and ride in the pony cart that caused all of my pain, disappointment, humiliation and anger. That was all on me, not on Jim and Scott.  I just laid out the play and they fulfilled their roles with the props that I handed them so I was the architect of my own unhappiness.

It would be another 20 years before I would realize that disappointment can only come from depending too much on the outcome of expectations.  If a person has expectations and does not prepare a way for each of them to close in ways that will not affect them then repeated disappointment will be a predictable part of the rest of their lives.

On the other hand, the work of finding ways to explain possible outcomes will take the emotional content out of the future and replace it with focused acceptance of what IS rather than the disappointment of what isn’t.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Gutter Overflow problems

In 2008, I got tired of having my RV gutters stop up and then run over the side when an ant got caught sideways in one. I had tried some different gutter ends with drip extensions but none addressed the real problem.

The gutters are so small that they cannot handle much water, much less the constant buildup of EPDM roof cast off material, algae and other foreign stuff that seems magnetized to DSC01159lodge in them. Additionally, they are not angled at any sort of useful drainage elevation so what does get into them rarely moves on out very quickly.  Some awning braces actually attach over the gutters with bolts that barely clear the top of the opening and so anything that might try to go down it, like a leaf, twig or a cockroach with his hand up, will catch on the bolt and create a junk jam, again causing overflow.

On my curb side I have a huge awning with the afore mentioned mounting problem. Between the backup in the gutter at the awning attachment bracket and the normal overflow onto the awning covering shield, a great deal of the water runs off right at the edge of the rear slide seal. Over time, a lot of water manages to seep through any seal there and also trickles down and around the bottom of the slide at that place and wicks back into the edge of the flooring causing it to deflake.

Replacing the gutters is a non-option as is climbing up there every week (or less) to flush them out. After much puzzling and cursing over this, along with replacing the floor in the slideout, I decided that the solution was a lot simpler than I was trying to make it.

I figured that if I made some sort of gutter/flashing that did not try to hold the water and trash but just kept it from running on down the sides and slides, then I could direct it wherever and If it did get some trash in it, there would be no sides to it to capture it there and make a trash jam in the flow.

I started off looking for aluminum flashing that I could form but I was unhappy with the look and the work needed to get it like I wanted. Eventually, I found some DuraFlash


at Home Depot that is made of PVC and it seems to be a great solution. Being PVC, it is easy to cut, shape, glue and is virtually indestructible if struck by branches or whatever. Since there is no "edge" to actually capture the water but rather, just direct it, any trash that may get on it just washes off the side or over the end with the running water.

By cutting a piece long enough to carry gutter overflow from above the slideout to behind the rear scare light,


I managed to stop all of the dampness in the carpet and along the slideout seams. I placed it at enough of an angle to insure that the water would really rather go down it than over the edge. The slight drip lip along the outer edge keeps any water that may run over the side from running back under it and down the side of the RV. You can still see the old stains from the original gutter runoff that goes down across the scare light. Notice no stains at the end of the flashing, though.

I shaped the end of it with a little outward flare to direct the runoff away from the side of the RV


and glued it in place with standard PVC cement. Likewise, where there was runoff from the Big awning cover I put an extended piece


there to catch that and direct it back down into this new flange. I won't apologize for the current look as this was just a prototype to see if it worked, how well it worked and to see what modifications I might need to make to it to protect other places that have gutter overflow problems.

As of now, I need to go back to just make a nice looking one to replace the prototype and then make a few more to put in a few other places that have runoff/overflow problems. Just about the only changes I will make is to provide a little longer/larger flange at the ends of the awning shield to better direct really heavy flows back down the flange. At present it takes nearly a hurricane's volume of water to run over it now and even this amount does not run down the end of the slideout..

I will also add one of these across the back of the RV above the triple rear windows to keep them from collecting so much "white" runoff from the roof back there. A nice double angled pair draining to each RV corner should do the trick.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting rid of the “Stuff!”…

Nick Russel's Gypsy Journal Blog has been a long favorite of mine. He has a lot of insight and very useful perspective about many diverse things besides just full time Rving.

When He and Terry finally bought a new motor home they had to move everything from their MCI bus conversion into the new vehicle and that meant discovering a lot of things that had been there but forgotten for years. He chronicled this multi-day effort in his blog. He also has a "bad side" that is ruled by Bad Nick. Bad Nick seems to be the one that has more mouth than brain, a shorter fuse than an older cherry bomb and despite strong social fences and tethers, does manage to get out, occasionally and impress his needs on the world around him. You can follow the misadventures of Bad Nick on his own website… But I digress.

The follow is an excerpt from my comments which I posted on the regular Nick's blog when he was grousing about all the stuff that had to be relocated or disposed of to move into the new Winnebago.

Believe me, just because one is living in less than 400 sq ft does not mean that the usual FSF (Flat Surface Fungus) does not thrive just as well as in a 4000 sq ft Stix and Brix home.

It sounds like maybe Bad Nick gets a lot of that stuff and then puts it in unrelated places just to gently hide it from you and Terry. He probably knows exactly where it is and maybe even gets it out to play with it sometimes when you guys are not paying attention.

Personal experience:

We still have the advantage of living in DakotR in the back yard. All of our "stuff" is still in the basement of the house. Every few months, I take a 90 gallon city trash can and drag it into the basement, empty. The goal is to fill it before the next trash pickup on Tuesday. The "left-overs" that I gleaned out of the boxes, drawers and other "high density" hideouts, are left sitting out to be sorted and restored in new places. This adds an urgency factor to dealing with them because whatever flat spaces they now occupy are probably places that I will need to be able to use in a few weeks or months. Places like the table saw bed, workbench, flip top tool box, slack space on the hand tools storage shelves.

That last one is a really good technique because as tools are discovered in various random boxes, bags, buckets, etc. They have to be put on those shelves sooner or later so the boxes, bags, etc. can be pitched into the 90 gallon "liberator!". When that happens there will rarely be anything that is as important as the tool.. Any tool, used or unused for decades will still trump 4 Aces of any other sort of content.

I will admit that this cannot be done in a few weeks. Some lagging content will be able to hold out longer in this competition than John Ratzenberger on Dancing with the Stars. The key is the presence of the 90 gallon mawr that must be fed to full by Tuesday. That insures that every week the liberator is brought into the basement, 90 gallons of volume is released to the natural environment and eventually, you will see the difference.

There is just one rule, If its in the basement I must not be there past monday evening and it must never be put on the curb less than full. Its amazing how well this works for us that are organizationally challenged and sometimes can't seem to make a simple decision between STAY, GO, DONATE. I have found that by the time things have survived the liberator a few times (or many) and have not had their destinies firmly decided, the sheer trouble of having to face them again wears down their staying power and their ability to cling to the edge of my indecision, weakens and starts to slip.

By the time I reach the "Oh crap! I have to handle this again!" point,... it has become translated into crap and that is a no-brainer.

I promise that it only takes a few weeks of gritting your teeth when facing the unfilled Liberator 90 gallon container before that becomes a passion more powerful than all the collected "I am sure I can/will/might use that item someday".

And above all, don't let the ebb-tide side of this catch you by surprise. It is guaranteed that with a week or even a few days after the Tuesday an item left with the liberator, you will see an immediate need for it. That is the way of nature.... ignore it and just ask yourself if you would have recognized this need if you had not just handled that item for the first time in 14 years? The answer must always be NO! because if you had even thought of it you would not have had a clue where it was and would not have been willing to spent the hours of lost time it would have taken to discover that it was not in any of the places that you could have thought of to look in for it.

For those items that are still potentially too useful, valuable or warm and fuzzy to give to the liberator, you can store them on eBay or Craigslist until you need them (never).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Layout of the Smart deck on Clifford

The following pictures show, from back of cab area to the tail of Clifford, where things are located on the present back of the truck.  Any photo opened can be zoomed to read the tape measure to identify how far back from the forward edge of the middle Catwalk platform an item or area is located.

The forward edge of that catwalk was picked as an easy reference point because it lines up with the grab handles on the side fairings of Clifford and makes it the forward-most point that the side of the smart couOrigion 2: Starting point - fwd most edge of smart placement on deck begins at fwd edge of middle catwalk.ld be placed once loaded. O2: pic 2





O2: pic 2

O2: pic 3






O2: pic 4 -White line is 60" from front edge of middle catwalk. Should be width of Smart less 1.1"O2: pic 5






O2: pic 6

O2: pic 7






The white chalk marks indicate the 60” point which would be about where the smart side facing the rear (plus 1.1”) would come if lined up on the front edge of the catwalk. This is just as an easy reference to get perspective and measurements.

In the last photo, the middle chalk mark of the 3 is 60” rearward of the first chalk mark (back side of the smart). The two marks bracketing it are about the range of where the pin would come in this hitch.

Clearly, this hitch must be moved back. It is presently in the rear most lock position on this sliding platform.  The whole platform can be moved farther back by unbolting it and then unbolting the support flanges under it and moving them rearward. I don’t think that it will be necessary to add any extension to the main frame rails to do this.

DSC01070 DSC01069

A lot more pictures and measurements of Clifford’s bed area are available on my Full TIming – Smart Car Deck Project gallery. The originals are 4k x 3k pixel photos so displaying the original form of a photo might be slow on a slow internet connection. Fortunately, Smugmug displays thumbnails and provides a number of alternate display formats by default so the choices are yours once you are there.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Smart Loading and unloading

All focus is now on getting Clifford setup to load $prite, the smart car on it, piggy back style.  This whole concept has only been around a few years but it provides a way to have a run around vehicle that can go anywhere civilized with good MPG.

The basic design is simple, just put a deck on the back of the HDT behind the cab and some ramps to run it up there and tie it down securely. How hard could that be?

It turns out that there are a few critical points that make this complicated. $$$$$, $$$$$$ and more $$$$$$ if the finished examples of this are any indicator of what is necessary.

The first person to do this that I know of was DennisM. His solution was fixed ramps loading from the driver’s side onto the flat bed he built behind the cab. He is still loading that way just fine.

The next evolution was to make a platform for the smart to sit on when loaded and make it to tilt up when loading and unloading. Lifted by hydraulic or Air bags, this reduces the breakover angle for the edge of the deck.

I am not satisfied with some of the limitations in the current solutions.

For one thing, they are all loaded/unloaded from the driver’s side of the HDT.  They require some powered lift mechanism to give a smart clearance and they also need a winch to get it on and sometimes to get it off of the HDT.

I want to load from either side and unload the same way. I do not want a lot of mechanics to do it and I would like to drive it on and off without dependence on a winch.

We need to have this finished for our anniversary kick off trip at the end of October so I have a friend with some experience doing this, working on the design with me.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

House Cleaning day

Today we tackled cleaning DakotR.  Normally, I would not mention this but this was like a spring cleaning… .in August.  It had to be done, what with the recent bloom of spiders and their webs this time of year.

Also, lots of pollen and such but its mostly because of the almost constant forced air from the A/Cs and the ceiling fan. The fan has been a great addition. The original 30” fan was too close to the ceiling so it never really moved any air but it had to be that high to clear the tops of the opposing slideouts. DSC01081 The replacement is only 24” and fits nicely on its stalk between the slideouts when they are closed. It can even be used like that.  It does keep the air stirred and balances the temps both summer and winter. The other one never really kept the things evenly tempered.

But, it does move a lot of dust, too, and despite the apparent slickness of the ceiling and wall surfaces, they do snag lint and pollen like a wire brush and so have to be cleaned more often. I guess that is proof that this fan works. Never had to vacuum the ceiling and walls, before.

I handled the high stuff, like ceilings, valancesDSC01072 , cabinet facingsDSC01071 and doors and all the other “up high” stuff.  Merrily used a second vacuum to do the floors and carpets (one of the few perks of still sitting in the back yard of our stix and brix).

But after a couple of hours of this, I am pooped and soaked with perspiration from working over my head so much. I really need an extension hose to lengthen it so I don’t have to pick up the vacuum so much to reach up high.  Its a Hoover self propelled so its not light but it is good.

I have gotten the hardest stuff done but still need to do the entry area, bathroom and bedroom “up-highs”, tomorrow.  I also need to do my regular clean and sanitize of the bathroom, kitchen and hard floors.  I will work on that some, tomorrow, too.

Normally, I can keep up with this on a fairly regular basis but with the gobs of extra attention that I have been paying to changing our hot water heater for a tankless and planning the smart car loader and bed for Clifford, I have just not stayed on top of it all.

I really appreciate it when Merrily offers to pitch in on her day off to help me get caught up, again. She never complains about it nor chastises me for being behind.  She just says “lets get the place vacuumed and cleaned up a bit when we get back from lunch” and I never say “no.” She is more than just a gem of a person, she knows me better than I do myself and if I have learned nothing else in our 30 years of life together, its that she really is right more often than I am and I had better listen to her when she has an opinion or a suggestion.

On another front, it is clear that it’s time for a PIBWIB day (Put It Back Where It Belongs).  One fact of living in 400 sq ft is that a lot of things have to be kept in unhandy places.  When they are needed, they come out of the closet, basement or wherever they normally hide. Once used, it is often anticipated that the item will be used again, “shortly”, so it is kept out and handy. DSC01077

Eventually, it will be joined by brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and non-related items all retrieved to be “handy” with few returned immediately to the places of their storage after use. The bad news is that any flat area will become a temporary home for this growing gaggle of gear. The good news is that every flat surface will eventually reach equilibrium and things will start falling off as the overloading continues.  I call it Flat Space Fungus (FSF) because it does behave much like a fungus growing and growing until it spawns new piles on flat surfaces below it as they fall off of the primary surface.

The other bad news is that human nature being what it is, no one item falling off is enough justification to put them all back where they came from. Its much more expedient to just pick it up and find another way to place it back there with a little more “clout”.

Ah, but I digress… the point is that PIBWIB day is when all waifs and orphans must be put back where they came from for the sheer sanity of it. However, there is bad news here, too, for some of us older, wiser folk… these items will have been out of place for so long that their original storage locations will have been forgotten!  Imagine that!

So, putting it away becomes a matter of engineering new storage places for this stuff and thus restart their lifecycle anew, and that takes a lot more time and is harder to initiate.

The other thing that happens on PIBWIB day is that all of those empty boxes that stuff came in from a store (shoe boxes, tool boxes),DSC01076 UPS or USPS that looked like they would be just what I will need to store….. something (I don’t exactly know right now but it will come to me). 

They tend to have their own growth cycle but will probably be moved and moved again many times to get at things legitimately stored in the cabinet behind them or under them.  They will also be opened many times when looking for something else that was not where it was supposed to be and that had either become part of the FSF collections or been “aggregated” into some empty box for temporary holding until the box could be sorted or a PIBWIB day rolls around.

It is important to note that aggregated storage like this means that there is absolutely no indexing system of what’s in there or any discernable associative relationship to any other item in the box… its just there because company was coming and it looked bad “out”. It also means that at the time of aggregation, one’s mind was likely not their own and the pressures of “straightening up” prevented any and all transfer of temporary memory to permanent storage. Thereafter, all attempts to find anything that has been thus aggregated will require looking through all boxes, empty or not, until the last one, which, of course, is where the item being sought will be.

I guess its time to sign off. Between the actual work and this recap, I am bushed and getting hungry.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

To blog…. or not to blog….

Taking on the “responsibility” of a blog is not as simple as just making a diary or a personal journal…. maybe I was naive to think it was mostly like that.

The truth is that, unlike a diary, a blog is potentially readable by more than one’s self.   It does require some sensitivity to what others might think or how they may react to something I put into it. The best case is that I can “unload” my mind and spirit into it. The worst case is that I reveal something that unintentionally offends, embarrasses or maligns someone else. So, whether it is nobler in the mind to blog uncensored and suffer the slings and arrows of outraged friends and family or distort and omit some of the expressed reality with censorship. This can become a really sticky point in the process and in the content.

I feel strongly that it is important to reveal the actual state of mind and affairs as we move through this process. It paints a picture of accurate realism and better perspective for those that may come behind. It does not ignore the sloughing off of great chunks of expectations at the expense of future disappointments of readers.

On the other hand, absolute truthfulness can quickly become a wedge between friends and family that induces an unwanted attitude and regard for the full timing transition relationships thereafter.

So, the daily availability of content becomes subject to the fine line between censored and uncensored content…. and therein lies the difficulty with maintaining a content rich blog on a specified schedule.  Sometimes, the mire of personal daily content that cannot pass the censorship process is so large that there is nothing to describe without opening the whole kimono.

I have tried to get some ongoing content online but each day has been mostly about personal, medical, financial and relationship issues that once posted, would not cease to cause me discomfort for a very long time. I am certain that I would also start getting a lot of comments on the site which, while I like to get them, would not be pleasant to read so I have abstained from posting.

To all this I will say that there are a lot of things that come up in the process of moving into a full-timing lifestyle that is of a very deeply personal nature. Realistically, I offer a caution to all that pursue this lifestyle to expect to have some uncomfortable and frustrating times that you will have to bear alone or only with your companion.  Just be aware that this is normal even though no one writes much about it in their books and journals. They just cannot describe the specifics so that future readers get a completely honest and revealed view of what to expect. In so doing, the future followers of the lifestyle may find surprises in their transitions but they should not be dismayed or discouraged by these “dips”. They are normal and should be expected and should not be seen as automatic show-stoppers.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Go – No Go days….

It seems that every time I get a certain kind of respiratory bug its takes me forever for it to run its course.  This time I came down with it at the same time as my #1 son, Smitty, got it. He has worried through it while on the road and got over it in about 2 weeks.

Me, I am still struggling with the residuals from this thing.

To answer the usual first questions… I do take massive amounts of Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, Flaxseed Oil, Omega 3 fish oil, and a descend multivitamin. The downside is that some of these things change how I feel but don't really seem to shorten the lifespan of this bug.  Likewise, antibiotics don’t really seem to make any improvement but they do often make me feel worse while I am taking them.

All of this points more to viral rather than bacterial based infections.

The bad side of all of this is it kicks my immune system into high gear and that stress brings on the whole team of discomforts and depressors that come out when I am suffering from long term stress.

This is the “downers team” and when it gets control there is little more that I can get done than sleeping, eating irregularly and just trying to keep the minimum daily chores done. I can usually forget dealing with anything that requires engineering thought, power tools, or that involve some sort of conflict. The first will be wrongly done, the second is too dangerous to handle and the last will put me in a completely dysfunctional PTSD funk just waiting to explode unpredictably . That is not good for anyone around me.

So I have been plagued with this bug since June 3rd and though I have gotten mostly through the phglm, coughing, nose itching and dripping, ears plugged, raspy voice, lung whistling, stomach hurting, gut pains and nausea they still come back from air pollutants, and food sources. If I am lucky I will be over this before Labor Day.

There is still way too much to get fixed, completed, planned and financed before we leave at the end of October and a lot of it requires my brain and body working nearly flawlessly to get it completed without incident and or mistakes. This is getting really hard, right now.

I have started a workspace for designing and building the Smart car loader on Clifford. I put in an Excel spreadsheet that provides something of an index to resources of threads and pictures that describe key information and pictures of several bed and loader building processes to give some perspective of the overall process.

So far, most of this has been done during my last few non-sleeping nights so the time has not been totally wasted.

My next step is to decide how much to do myself and how much to contract out.  With the financial state right now, I think I am going to have to do a lot more of the work myself than I had originally planned.  Unfortunately, I don’t work well outside during the heat and humidity and biting insects of the NC summer months. I couple of chigger bites or mosquitoes bites and I am damaged for several days or more.

Another piece of work to do is to get the shore power hookups on Clifford and to put in the old Magnetek converter/charger to keep his batteries up. I would not trust it to do the job long term but they will get good peak charging from time to time when we are driving it but the Magnetek won’t let them go dead on me.

I need to start putting my various project plans on the website, too. A place to keep it all together and easy to find “what’s next to do”.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Tankless days – followup

I want to tell you…. this Precision Temp RV-500 tankless water heater is outstanding!  I actually showered AND Merrily did wash at the same time and I could not even tell it other than a few little glitches in water pressure!!!!

Granted, I also turned on the RV water pump to provide supplemental water and pressure since our shore water supply is about 100’ of 3/4” polybutal pipe plus another 50’ of RV hose to get to the RV connection. This is all just fed from a common (and 40 year old) frost proof hose bib on the back of the basement of the house. These are definitely NOT full flow valves and it does not take much pressure drop in the house to give us less than 40psi out here. When it does drop off I have found that running the RV Shurflow Extreme flow plump in the RV draws enough additional water from the RV tank to make up the lost pressure and volume so its not noticeable.

BTW, I have found another important thing about occasionally doing this with the pump. When these Shurflow pumps sit unused for long spells they seem to get stubborn about starting up again.  From tips from others with these smart flow pumps, using them even while shore water is hooked up is not a bad idea… just so long as you don’t forget it is on and run the RV water tanks dry.  I generally flip the pump ON during laundry days and keep the RV tank nearly full most of the rest of the time, just in case of… whatever.

I did finish up the replumbing job, though. I had intended to reuse some of the pipes and fittings from the old HWH bypass valves “Christmas tree” but decided that this stuff was all over 10 years old and the fittings were all plastic. I opted to use some of the 1/2” PEX I still had from replumbing the house a few years ago and bought new brass fittings for everything I installed.

One thing that turned out to be pretty nice is that the new tankless HWH is not nearly as deep as the Suburban 10 gallon DSI HWH so I now have quite a bit more space under the kitchen sink for storage. 

I just need to relocate a couple of 110volt electrical boxes that feed the whole slideout and I will actually be able to put a lot more under there than a bottle windex and a 1/2 bag of new sponges. Nothing heat sensitive,of course, even though it does not even get a little bit warmer under there when the new HWH is operating.

This is the “before”DSC00991 picture and here is the “after” shotDSC01048 with the newly operational tankless HWH and plumbing.  Quite a difference as you can see from the electrical junction box in both pictures that has not yet been moved. There is just that much more available space, now.

I just need to do some dressing up of the routing of the pipes, wires, heater hose, etc. to make the space more accessible.

The only item left to do is reinstall the water filter to the ice maker and the separate filtered water tap on the sink.  The original installation had the filter mounted horizontally (against the printed instructions on it) and on the shelf above the HWH. I am still puzzling as to where to put it so I can easily change it without emptying anything out of this cabinet. Maybe I will have an epiphany tonight…. if I ever get to sleep.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tankless days on the way

I mentioned awhile back that I was bidding on an RV-500 Precision Temp tankless hot water heater on EBay.   I eventually won the bid and got the unit for $600 + $10 S&H. It arrived here several weeks ago in a box that was distressed. I worried about the shape of the unit before even opening the box.

It turns out that they had packed it with some Styrofoam blocks and the only visible damage appeared to be that it was packed on its back and that is where the hot and cold water lines fittings protrude. The fittings stick out about 3” each and 1 looked to have been DSC01021 pushed in pretty hard. Hard enough to bend it to the side and slightly buckle the copper housing for the heater DSC01019 chimney where it is soldered around it before exiting the back.

I took pictures of the damages but it seems like its ok. The bottom corners of theDSC01012 cabinet DSC01010 look like they had taken a few licks, too.

I have been fighting a bug for 3 weeks and the weather has not been helping so it has taken me until now to get on with this installation.

Though I had seen forum comments about  swapping out a Suburban 10 Gal DSI HWH to a precision temp that made it seem very easy, I am not one to take off with that shining assumption… As I have said before, my middle name is Murphy and if it can go wrong it usually does. 

To get started, I did not want to just go and do the full conversion and then find that there was something wrong with the tankless unit and now could not easily swap back to my old Suburban until they could be worked out.  I decided that I should do some basic tests of the tankless, like water pressure test, gas leak test, electronics test and then heating test.

Since I am not equipped to do these all on a bench in my shop I figured that the most damaging failure was probably water leakage so I made some adapters and hooked up the water hose on the bench and flushed it then let it hold pressure… No Leaks!  Good.

Next test (electronics) required water and gas hookups so I decided to make some adapters to the existing water and gas lines rather than go heavily modifying what is in there.  This really was just a matter of picking up some 3/8” copper tubing, A flaring tool (I had one that got away from me sometime ago), Some flare nuts for the gas line adapter (and a shutoff) and some PEX to FIP connectors for the 1/2 water lines to be attached to the new HWH.

The RV500 Documentation recommends removing any HWH bypass kits as they are not needed. This step will greatly simplify the water supply and routing.  Plus, in my case, it makes it much easier to put the water filter for the sink where it really should be located.

The most difficult issue I faced was that the unit I got came with a flush mount kit and door and this required some significant modifications to the existing opening that the Suburban had been removed from.  I wanted to not make that mounting position unfriendly to put the suburban back into should the tankless not work out satisfactorily for us. These were not cosmetic changes to mount this guy flush.  However, Precision Temp makes a surface mount kit that should work perfectly for what I have to mount and where.

I put a 2x2 across the DSC01008 bottom of the opening. The entire opening is exactly outlined with 2x2 aluminum square tubing welded in place. I  was not interested in tangling with that structure so the 2x2 wood spacer across the bottom raised the tankless up 2” and centered it pretty well in the opening.   I then put in a 3/4” spacer over the top of the unit to give the top facing screws something to bite into .  I made it DSC01009 T shaped so that the ends of the Ts extended beyond the side vertical supports to keep the strain off of the screws holding it in place.  It cannot pull out through that wall without taking the whole welded aluminum wall out, too.

Finally, I put a stop cockDSC01020 on the end of the existing gas line so it can be shut off if needs be.  Also, the difficulty of getting a line into and connected to the gas controller in the tankless water heater was not going to be made with the existing copper gas supply so this was an easy way to pre plumb the inside gas connection and bring it out to where it can easily  be connected to the gas shutoff valve (you can see it in the middle of the picture with a blue shutoff handle.

Finally, I was running out of time for the day and figured I could just hook the two twist on connections that had fed the other HWH directly to the replacement, but…..  The tankless has the hot and cold water connection reversed from normal tank type HWH. Hot is at the bottom and cold is at the top of the back of the unit so the lines I needed to test with were about 6” too shortDSC01038 …. grrrrrrrr.

A quick trip to Home Depot with a stop for dinner at Char Grill and then home again to make patch tubes to hook up the water lines to the rest of the trailer.   They put such a combination of Tees, valves, elbows and more Tees in there to feed the kitchen, and the icemaker that trying  to use it was another 1/2 day job and I still did not want to wreck that piece of plumbing incase the tankless did not work. This would get water to everything in house but the kitchen sink, the water filter and the ice maker. We can live with that overnight.

Once it was all made and installed and pressure tested for leaks (gas and water) I was ready to take a shower….er… not quite.

I had used the water pump to provide the cold water supply to the tankless because the outside shore water supply was still connected to that rube Goldberg bypass tree of piping and there just was not any way to quickly connect shore water into this new hookup without a lot of surgery.

So, the problem was to get shore water either into the water tank to fill it enough to shower or hook it into the cold line somewhere other than cutting a Tee into what I had just finished up.   A little thought reminded me that there is a drain valve for the cold water line and when I checked the end fitting that the protective screen screws onto, I realized that I already had something that could screw onto that fitting and just put shore water  straight up DSC01040the regular drain line to pressurize the system and make it work until I can rework the Christmas tree of plumbing on the bypass setup. 

And it worked perfectly so I could have my shower tonight.

AND BOY WAS IT WORTH THE WAIT AND THE TROUBLE!!! That is the first full body, full time, full function shower I have had since moving into DakotR 19 months ago.

The hot water it produces is definitely hotter than anything I ever got out of the suburban HWH even when using both electric heat and gas heat simultaneously. I did notice that when I pinched down the water flow with the “pause” valve on my new shower head, it did shut off the heating. But that was just a way to stretch out the hot water from the old tank HWH, anyway.  I will give a little more info on my new shower head that I really like, somewhere else.  But for now, its a great combination… a 1.5gpm showerhead handheld that delivers all the water you want to shower, wash hair, shave, etc. with the tankless HWH.

This first experience with the RV-500 has me cussing the years of “tiny” showers, with no water soaping sessions and ice water to rinse out my hair. This is a no brainer.  Some folks can argue the fine points of conservation of water, gas, electricity,etc. but people have priorities based on real life personal experiences and its no sin to be able to enjoy a good shower, occasionally, rather than NEVER.

Tomorrow, I will unhook all of this and remake the replacement plumbing tree that feeds the sink, water filter and ice maker. I will also mount in the backing plate that must be slipped over the entire tankless unit from the back before it is pushed into the mounting hole in the wall … (a little step I missed when I was putting it in this afternoon while fighting 3 squadrons of anopheles mosquitoes intent on sinking my spirits before I could finish this job enough to take a shower.)

P.S.  and put away all the collateral DSC01039damage on the kitchen counters from emptying the under sink cabinets where all this work has taken place.